The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) today announced the public release of a joint INL/Nuclear Power Industry Strategic Plan for Light Water Reactor (LWR) Research and Development.
More evidence that the nuclear energy renaissance is coming is indicated in this announcement. What I thought was a discrepancy between two statements in the press release, one stating that the first strategy is to efficiently construct and operate dozens of new nuclear power plants, starting in the next several years and that to do this (these) strategies will require significant investment in research and development. The Plan actually states:
"A consensus has emerged (between DOE and NRC) that we are probably adequately prepared for modest growth in nuclear energy, but poorly prepared for large scale expansion."
which clarifies there actual stance. This announcement appears to be nothing more than a continuation of R&D on LWRs which the government had nearly dropped and now feels necessary to continue, and makes the case that the nuclear industry
requires the active engagement and leadership of the Federal Government in a number of strategic areas where industry cannot succeed on its own.
This amounts to another subsidy of the nuclear industry, which may or may not be justified (see pages 3-6 of the Plan for their justification). Their justification relies highly on the fact that only the government has the facilities to conduct the research. But is it fair for the government to pay for the research? The governmenent needs to maintain its role of watchdog over the industry, but to this extent? In any event, I remain convinced that nuclear energy will play a major role in development of a reduced CO2 emissions power industry.
The press release in part :
The plan sets forth two strategies that must be employed for nuclear energy to play a substantial role in meeting future U.S. energy needs. The first strategy is to efficiently construct and operate dozens of new nuclear power plants, starting in the next several years. The second is to maximize the contribution from our existing nuclear power fleet by extending the operating licenses. Implementing both of these strategies will require significant investment in research and development.
"Recent analysis by EPRI shows that all low-emission electricity technologies will be required to satisfy anticipated goals for reduced CO2 emissions - energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear energy, and clean coal with CO2 capture and sequestration" "Industry recognizes that LWR technology is mature and that industry should carry a large portion of the responsibility in maintaining this technology. However, this plan demonstrates that the magnitude of the challenges facing this nation require the active engagement and leadership of the Federal Government in achieving the stretch goals identified in the report."
-- Chris Larsen, vice president and chief nuclear officer for EPRI
The proposed industry/government cost-shared R&D effort set forth in the plan is focused on 10 objectives, six of which are considered to be of the highest priority. These high-priority objectives include:
- Sustaining the high performance of nuclear plant materials
- Transitioning to state-of-the-art digital instrumentation and controls
- Making further advances in nuclear fuel reliability and lifetime
- Implementing broad-spectrum workforce development
- Implementing broad-spectrum infrastructure improvements and design for sustainability; and
- Addressing electricity infrastructure-wide problems
View the plan. ( 1.1MB PDF)